SOMERSET, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A food pantry in Somerset County wiped out by flooding is in desperate need of help to serve its people.
Feeding Hands food distribution normally features more than 60 volunteers loading necessities into cars and carts for those in need.
“Last year, we served between 400 and 650 families a month on Tuesdays in three and a half hours,” director Lois Bennett said.
“It’s heartbreaking just to see what their struggles are right now,” volunteer Rich Hayes said.
Now, there has been a major setback. The new warehouse-type space the charity just moved into was completely wiped out by floodwater and mud from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
“We lost about $100,000 worth of food. We lost all of our refrigeration and freezer equipment, so that’s probably another $25,000 to $30,000, and every bit of supplies,” Bennett said.
Yet, Feeding Hands didn’t miss a beat. It still served its guests with the help of other food pantries.
But now, it needs a temporary space in the area to continue its service.
“Many had transportation problems to start with. Many of them now lost their cars in the floods so they can’t go very far. So we have to be close to our guests,” Bennett said.
Those that volunteer and are guests say Feeding Hands is more than just food. It’s a community.
“People who work here are like family. We know each other, we talk to each other, and we pray for each other,” guest and volunteer Mary Phillips Blackshear said.
Feeding Hands is also asking for monetary donations. It only has a small space at Emmanuel Church in Somerville to hold donated items, so what it gets in it gives right out.
“Even $10 matters. Every little bit. That would buy a bag of fruit or vegetables for a family,” volunteer Pat Heisler said.
Many in the area lost everything to Ida and the need has only grown.
Before the pandemic, Feeding Hands distributed more than $353,000 worth of food a year. In 2020, it gave out more than $1 million worth. If you would like to help the pantry, please click here.
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.